Friday, December 10, 2010

Fantasia & Fantasia 2000: 2-Movie Collection Special Edition - DVD Review

Fantasia is one of Disney's most interesting ventures. His concept of "seeing music and hearing pictures" originally came to life in 1940 with the release of the revolutionary animated film Fantasia, a series of classical music works interpreted in animation. Walt Disney intended for Fantasia to be an ongoing, evolving venture, with new segments consistently released and combined with the older musical segments. However, even though the film is now a classic, Fantasia did not initially perform as well in the box office as the studio was hoping and they tabled plans for future releases. Finally, in 1999, Disney released a sequel, Fantasia 2000. Just recently, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment combined both films in a special edition package. On November 30th, 2010, they released Fantasia and Fantasia 2000: 2-Movie Collection Special Edition.

In a general sense, Fantasia is basically a series of animated videos inspired by various pieces of classical music. However, it is also a true masterpiece and an amazing technological endeavor, especially if one takes into consideration the time period during which the film was developed. I recently had the chance to watch the 4-Disc Special Edition Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack. After viewing some of the bonus material and documentaries included in the special edition, I gained a new appreciation for the original film. By today's standards, especially with the advent of computerized animation, some of the effects don't exactly look groundbreaking. But, as shown in the bonus video, "The Shultheis Notebook: A Disney Treasure", the special effects weren't only made through the magic of hand-drawn animation, but were accomplished using large-scale mechanical means including rotating gears and mirrors and intricate camera techniques. The innovations made by Disney and his crew are truly astonishing, and I will forever view these remarkable early Disney videos with new eyes and a better understanding of how the images were produced.

The Fantasia sequences bring classical music to a wider audience, including children, and also bring the symphony right into your home. Although the actual musical pieces are not mentioned anywhere in the packaging (much to my chagrin) both Fantasia and Fantasia 2000 feature eight separate musical works. Short live-action segments introduce each work.

Fantasia's playlist includes (Deems Taylor introduces each piece):
"Toccata and Fugue in D Minor" (Johann Sebastian Bach)
"The Nutcracker Suite" (Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky)
"The Sorcerer's Apprentice" (Paul Dukas)
"The Rite of Spring" (Igor Stravinsky)
"The Pastoral Symphony" (Ludwig van Beethoven)
"Dance of the Hours" (Amilcare Ponchielli)
"Night on Bald Mountain" (Modest Mussorgsky)
"Ave Maria" (Franz Schubert)

Fantasia 2000's playlist includes (various famous individuals introduce each piece and "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" is once again featured):
"Symphony No. 5" (Ludwig van Beethoven)
"Pines of Rome" (Ottorino Respighi)
"Rhapsody in Blue" (George Gershwin)
"Piano Concerto No. 2, Allegro, Opus 102" (Dmitri Shostakovich)
"Carnival of the Animals, Finale" (Camille Saint-Saƫns)
"The Sorcerer's Apprentice" (Paul Dukas)
"Pomp and Circumstance - Marches 1, 2, 3 and 4" (Edward Elgar)
"Firebird Suite - 1919 version" (Igor Stravinsky)

"The Sorcerer's Apprentice" sequence is probably the most well known Fantasia work. It's a hilarious animation about an apprentice (Mickey Mouse) whose enchanted broomstick goes out of control. This segment inspired the new Disney action-adventure movie, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, also released to DVD on November 30th. My children also really enjoy watching "The Nutcracker Suite" which is actually an unusual, nature-inspired interpretation of a number of the pieces from Tchaikovsky's famous ballet. It does not feature a Nutcracker, but instead fairies, plants, mushrooms, and fish all make an appearance. In Fantasia 2000, our favorites included "Rhapsody in Blue," a cartoon sequence about the daily lives of people living in New York City in the 1930s. The "Piano Concerto No. 2, Allegro, Opus 102" sequence tells the story of The Steadfast Tin Soldier. We also love "Pomp and Circumstance" as Donald Duck plays Noah and rounds up the animals on the ark.

Fantasia bonuses (Blu-ray): Besides the "The Shultheis Notebook: A Disney Treasure" the collection contains several other bonus features worth mentioning. The audio commentaries are extremely enlightening. The Fantasia audio commentary is not a discussion but more of an informative lecture. A short segment, "Disney Family Museum," introduces viewers to the tourist attraction.

Fantasia 2000 bonuses (Blu-ray): "Destino," an Academy Award Nominated short, was developed from the unusual collaboration between Walt Disney and Salvador Dali. The full details are presented in the 82-minute-long feature, "Dali & Disney: A Date With Destino." The "Musicana" documentary tells about a Fantasia sequel project from the 70s that never made it to production.

The Library of Congress has classified Fantasia as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” I wholeheartedly agree with this analysis. Both films are a delight to watch, a true testament to Disney's genius, and they also make excellent musical teaching tools. Some may find a few of the selections in the original Fantasia to be a bit too serious for young children to appreciate and understand, but on the whole, the balance of information, music and animation art in the Fantasia films is inspiring and incredibly moving.

(DVD Source: review copy provided for review purposes by Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment. All opinions expressed are my own. I am an Amazon affiliate and may receive a very small commission for products purchased through my Amazon links. View my full disclosure statement for more information about my reviews.)


Natalie PlanetSmarty said...

We got this set for Christmas, since we love Disney early work. To be completely honest, I fell asleep in the middle of Nutcracker Suite, but I guess watching it late at night was not the best idea to begin with. We enjoyed watching Blue Rhapsody and Pomp and Circumstances piece at a friend's place, and Anna asked "why" every 15 seconds :)